Emma – Jane Austen
“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”
The character of Emma Woodhouse revolutionised the female heroine and is still relatable over 200 years later!
Emma was the last novel Jane Austen published before her death, almost two years later. She had moved into a cottage in Chawton with her mother and sisters some years previous. It was here that her most famous work was written; Pride and Prejudice in 1813. Emma was published two years later, while both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were released six months after her death.
Although Emma is by far not the most popular Austen novel today; that title firmly remaining within Pride and Prejudice‘s grasp; it was her most successful work at the time of its release. Emma sold over 2000 copies when first published, while the average at the time was approximately 500. Her work particularly inspired the Prince Regent, who would go on become King George IV of the United Kingdom. The novel itself was even dedicated to the Prince; though Jane Austen made no secret about her dislike of the man.
This so-called ‘unlikeable’ heroine is equal parts clever and ridiculous, which aptly sums up the novel itself. Emma is full of witticisms and entertaining failures that do nothing to dissuade the titular character from her matchmaking! No matter how much her family and friends want her to…
The novel tells the story of Emma Woodhouse. She’s an intelligent and beautiful young woman who is more than a bit spoiled by her fond yet foolish father. Having recently watched her best friend get married, she wholeheartedly congratulates herself for setting the couple up. As a result, Emma decides to turn her matchmaking skills to the rest of the village. Throughout the novel, Emma tries to pair off family and friends with their ‘ideal’ partners, only for each attempt to backfire hilariously. She manages to entangle herself in each relationship, often with entertaining consequences and ignores her own deepening feelings until it’s almost too late. Emma was one of the first outspoken and powerful female characters in English literature; despite all her failings when it comes to matters of the heart.
Jane Austen famously declared Emma as “a heroine whom no one but [Austen] will much like”. And although she may have succeeded in some regard, I cannot help but love this novel all the same.
- Brilliantly well-written, Austen has mastered the art of subtle insults and double entrees. The conversations flow off the page and leave readers wanting more.
- Emma herself is one of the few level-headed women in early 19th-century literature and defies all societal expectations put on her. She is compassionate, bright, and mature (most of the time) and is by far one of Austen’s greatest role models.
- The novel seems to perfectly balance humour and seriousness. Even though most of Emma’s matchmaking attempts result in lighthearted admonishments from dear Mr Knightley, he is also not shy to criticise her when others feelings get hurt. Love is a dangerous game, after all, and Emma isn’t always prepared to deal with the fallout.
- As much as I adore Emma, it cannot be denied that she is arrogant, impatient, and sometimes cruel, albeit unknowingly. She causes harm to more than a few other characters, and even though it was never her intention to, these oversights cannot be ignored.
- It is undoubtedly a fanciful novel, full of coincidences and unrealistic situations. This comedy of errors is what makes the novel so entertaining, though some readers may find it a bit too much.
- Asides from the aforementioned Mr Knightley, the majority of the characters are simplistic and somewhat flat. Everyone seems happy and free from worry, and not many even bat an eye when Emma completely messes things up. They lack substance, and although this contributes to the comedic effect, it makes for a somewhat colourless read.
Emma is one of the very few novels in which I have no other option but to give a full 5/5 stars!
It’s a brilliant novel full of plot twists and shocking revelations. Each conversation contains at least one element of banter in it to keep readers entertained. For lovers of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, I warn you not to expect as much dashing chivalry and charming male leads, but it is still completely and utterly well-worth the read!
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